The other morning I had to get back earlier to prepare for the day, so I ran home and my husband continued on and ran the upper part of the trail alone. When he got back he said he did it because he just had to whistle past the graveyard that day. I was curious about that phrase and did some research on it. I found that in the Middle Ages and even into the 1800s, cemeteries were often built on the edges of a town. During these superstitious times, it was believed that the spirits of those buried there would come out at dusk to haunt any one who happened to be passing by. To escape these ghostly encounters, travelers would make loud noises or literally whistle as they walked past the graveyard to keep the spirits and their own fear away until they were past the cemetery.
Robert Blair who lived in the early 1700s, was a Scottish poet who was educated in the Netherlands and Edinburgh. He only published three poems during his lifetime and is most well known for his final poem titled “The Grave.” A portion of this poem mentions the idea of whistling past the graveyard:
Oft in the lone church yard at night I've seen,
By glimpse of moonshine chequering thro' the trees,
The school boy, with his satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
(With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
As we look at amazing individuals from the past that have accomplished great things under difficult circumstances I think that we need to realize that they may have been doing a lot of whistling to make it though and keep going. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” I think she was telling us to try to look beyond our current situations, no matter how challenging they may be and see where we could be if we just kept walking and whistling.
So, next time I run in the dark past the shadowy hallows, I will just whistle a little louder and enjoy the run. By the way, there is also a graveyard at the top of our running trail.